Medan is as vibrant and lively as its rich history and culture. Along its natural beauty and landscape, its rich culture is the result of the different influences from adjacent countries and its own culture. In addition, the influence of China and India for many centuries and the Middle Eastern and European influence in medieval age also play huge impact in the colorful Indonesian culture. With this, expect to experience a unique cultural blend when it comes to the culture and festivals in Medan.
Knowing a few cultural facts could help a lot when coming to Medan. What are the dos and don’ts you should learn? When coming to Medan, avoid eating in public during Ramadan as it is the fasting month. Most restaurants close their curtains as a way of showing respect to the Moslems. On top of that, never use your left hand when handshaking or receiving things at it is only reserved for toilet use.
Observing local practices, customs and proper courtesies is important. Before visiting a home, it is polite to call beforehand. Shoes must always be removed when entering the house and when drinks are offered, it is a respectful act to accept.
The right hand is used all the time during eating and when giving or receiving objects. Use your right thumb with your four fingers folded when pointing on places, person or objects. Snapping shots on places of worship is usually allowed but always ask for permission beforehand.
There are a number of culture and festivals in Medan. Being a city with a predominant Moslem population, one of the major annual events is Ramadan with Eid Ul Fitr, also known as Lebaran. During Lebaran Day, it is the tradition to eat biscuits and sweet foods, wear new clothes and offer money or gifts to children. Eid means festivity in Arabic while Fitr means ‘to break fast’, which mean the end of fasting season in Ramadan month and that families prepare food and drinks for people who visit.
With a significant number of Indians in Medan, an annual Hindu festival takes place in the city. The Festival of Adhi Maha Puja in Medan is celebrated during August every year. During this celebration, many Hindu Tamil devotees perform rituals such as offering prayers and fulfilling their vows through different forms of body piercing and fasting as they show worship to their gods for purification. It is also a way of expressing gratitude to the Hindu gods as well as beginning reinforcements and begging forgiveness for sins.
For the Chinese community in Medan, another popular festival is the Mooncake and Mid-Autumn Festival. Mid-Autumn Festival, known as Moon Festival, is a popular harvest festival celebrated during the 15th day of eight lunar month. During this celebration, families spend some time together eating mooncake and later, celebrate the end of harvest season. The most recent annual festival is the North Sumatra Jazz Festival, which takes place in Medan. It usually features popular Indonesian bands.
Learning the culture and festivals in Medan gives you remarkable insights on the historical and cultural background of this ancient city. In this way, you can easily adapt and adjust to the local norms and have a more relaxed time in the city.